wooden spoon

wooden spoon

Finally, the dam has broken, or at the very least there’s a crack in it.

Last Friday, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School held its 123rd graduation on a beautiful June afternoon. Graduates were limited to five family members and/or friends, the bleachers were well-marked to keep ticket holders in “family” groups, and the traditional after-ceremony mingling took place in front of the school instead of on the field.

As the guest of graduate Liam Peadar Hanson, I enjoyed the day immensely and admit to tearing up when the band played "Pomp and Circumstance" as graduates marched to their seats. Our national anthem was sung flawlessly by Hailey Johnson, and the afternoon proceeded without a hitch.

Hats off to the Class of 2021, another COVID year but less restrictive than 2020.

Although we’re not out of the woods yet, we are well on our way. Hopefully, we’ll be celebrating the “old” normal soon, as I’m not willing to accept a “new” one. Santa Barbara reached the yellow tier and some of the stricter restrictions have been relaxed.

Graduation was followed by weekend celebrations around the Valley.

Liam’s family celebrated with an informal open house for family, friends and neighbors. It was delightful and fun to gather for a party; it has been a long time. I was happy to have been a part of the celebration.

We had libations and finger foods, but most of all, a good time visiting, congratulating and wishing Liam well.

Guests enjoyed sliders, meatballs, chicken puffs, deviled eggs, smoked salmon pinwheels, dolmades, corned beef slices, assorted cheese with crackers and fruit. We had cookies and fresh strawberries for dessert. There was food for every palate, and my recipe antennae went up.

I was able to corner Karen Lamberton for her delicious bite-sized chicken salad puffs, and I'm happy to say I plan to hit up another neighbor or two for more.

While not afraid to tackle almost any recipe, I’ve been intimidated by choux pastry.

For years I’ve been wanting to make homemade cream puffs, eclairs and other sweet or savory tidbits that have their base in the all-dough mystics.

Karen says choux is easy, and with her assurance, I plan to tackle it soon. In the meantime, this week she’s sharing her chicken salad recipe as well.

“I don’t have any specific amounts for this,” she admitted. “Just use what you like and tailor it to personal taste.”

This is one of my favorite kinds of recipes. No measurements, just ingredients and the freedom to make the dish as you wish.

CHOUX PASTRY

1 cup water

1/2 cup butter

1 cup flour

4 eggs

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bring water and butter to a rolling boil in saucepan. Turn heat down and add flour. Stir vigorously over low heat until mixture forms a ball (about 1 minute.) Remove from heat. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until smooth after each addition.

Drop dough from spoon onto ungreased baking sheet. Makes 8 large puffs or 16 small. Bake large puffs 45 to 50 minutes, (smaller ones a shorter time) until golden brown and dry. Cool slowly, away from draft. To fill, cut off tops with sharp knife. Scoop out soft dough and fill with filling of choice.

CHICKEN SALAD

cooked, shredded or chunked chicken

green onions, chopped

sweet pickle relish

dill pickle relish

celery, chopped

bell pepper, chopped

pimento, chopped

mayonnaise

dash nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

lemon juice

Mix chicken with green onions, both relishes, celery, bell pepper and pimento. Add mayonnaise to bind and season to taste with nutmeg, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Use to fill baked and cooled pastry shells.

Longtime Valley resident Elaine Revelle can be reached at thewoodenspoon@juno.com.

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